There are so many gemstones that can be used in jewelry. Choosing appropriate gemstones to use in jewelry pieces depends on the Mohs hardness scale. Harder stones are more durable and can withstand everyday wear and tear. Light is another factor because some gemstones will never fade or change color with light exposure while others will. These are all considerations I think about when creating jewelry pieces. Depending on how abundant a gemstone occurs, certain gemstones are more affordable than others (this has nothing to do with whether it's classified as semi-precious or precious). Today, nearly all gemstones can be synthetically re-created. Many affordable fashion jewelry pieces use these man made stones to offer lower prices. I however, use only natural stones in my jewelry pieces. For certain colors or looks, there's nearly always an alternative natural stone that can be used when price is a consideration. Many gemstones can be dyed or heat treated to change its color.
I've compiled a list of the ten most affordable gemstones (in their natural state) used in jewelry. There are always exceptions to the rule however; certain "colors" may be more rare and therefore more expensive. I personally love working with many of these listed stones and you can find some gorgeous jewelry pieces that include them.
Belonging to the quartz family, amethyst is both abundant and incredibly popular. It's purple color can range from light purple to deeper violet shades. Fashion jewelry often uses lighter shade stones while the deeper violet, and red-purple colors are found in fine jewelry.
A member of the quartz family and a variety of the chalcedony, agate gemstones come in a variety of colors. Agate, regardless of the color will have bands caused by impurities. Agates are nearly always beads or cabochons and are a popular choice for tumbled stones.
Citrine belongs to the quartz family; noticing a trend here? Naturally occurring citrine is rare; instead amethyst is heated and its chemical changes creates the yellow-orange color. Citrine can range from lighter yellow-orange to deeper red-orange tones. Price per carat is affordable hence it's wide use in jewelry pieces.
We're used to seeing garnet it's it red color but garnet actually comes in a variety of colors. There are two classes of garnets: aluminum and calcium. Aluminum garnets are red hues while calcium are green hues. Garnet was the most popular gemstone of Ancient Rome's jewelry and has been used as gemstones for over 5,000 years.
An ore of iron, hematite is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth. Although it is mined worldwide for iron ore, hematite's coloring as a gemstone is silver-black. Be wary of "magnetic hematite" stones often sold as many are man made and not genuine hematite stones.
A type of chalcedony (which surprise-belongs to the quartz mineral family), onyx is abundant and mined in many countries around the world. Onyx is also popular because it can be dyed easily. While it's commonly used in jewelry in its natural state of black onyx, other colors are used as a great alternative.
Belonging to the olivine group of minerals, peridot is crystallized from a magma. It's also been used in jewelry since the Egyptians being revered as a gem of the sun. It's hue is often a yellow-green but can sometimes have brown as well.
Another highly popular gemstone that most people are familiar with is rose quartz. A pink variety of quartz that is translucent. It's abundant and inexpensive and can be found as beads or cabochons typically. Rose quartz can have inclusions, which to the naked eye appears like white/light veins.
A personal favorite to use, topaz comes in variety of colors, shapes, and most importantly is inexpensive. It's the hardest silicate mineral (meaning it's great for jewelry use because it doesn't scratch as easily). Colorless (or "white"), pale yellow, and brown are the most common naturally occurring topaz although blue is also popular as it's also the December birthstone.
Zircon can be found almost anywhere because it is so widely distributed. However, most zircon crystals are so small they're overlooked. Zircon is often used a diamond substitute; not to be confused with cubic zirconia though which is synthesized. Zircon comes in a variety of colors although its natural state is often colorless, brown, yellow, or red.
Have a personal favorite? Topaz is likely mine because of its variety of colors and affordability plus they're a harder gemstone and less likely to scratch. I'm currently awaiting a lemon topaz delivery and am excited to create some pieces with them.